SXSW Interview: Josh Lucas on his new film, ‘A Year in the Mooring’, creating a character and more!

Let me just get this out of the way: I’m a huge Josh Lucas fan. He’s a truly great actor and he just keeps getting better.

I talked to him at SXSW where his new film, A Year in the Mooring premiered.  Directed by Chris Eyre, the film is about Josh’s character, trying to start his life over. He buys an old sailboat and spends a year fixing it up. It’s haunting, beautiful and because of his performance, it’s a must watch. The film has virtually no dialogue and his performance is just incredible.

Josh is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever interviewed.  To get a better sense of him and the conversation, I really recommend that you listen to the audio portion of the interview.

We talk about the film, how he created the character when he had no dialogue and his time on Broadway!

For the full interview, click the audio link above or download from iTunes

The film takes place over a year and with having virtually no dialogue, how do you go about creating a character who has, like you do in the movie, a sense of mystery?

Josh Lucas: I think it’s like asking that question of yourself. Ok so, let’s take, anything as an actor, take the premise of what’s going down and try to put it in your own life in terms of how would you react? And in terms of Psychology, I guess they say there’s 7 stages of grief. The first obviously being rage, and the second being, I don’t remember exactly what they are… but for me trying to monitor each phase of this movie knowing, “Ok, where are we within that?” And hopefully can see that ‘cause there’s times where honestly, you could say my performance at times looks almost numb, like there’s not really much going on. That was on purpose, because I’ve met people who are in horrible mourning, who seemed numb.

And it’s interesting doing Charles Lindberg right now, ‘cause I’m doing this movie J. Edgar that Clint Eastwood is directing, and when you read about what he went through when his baby was kidnapped some people said they thought that maybe he had been involved because his reaction was so numb, so cold. And so, that becomes part of the… you can’t, you’re not just gonna be crying, that becomes the joy of the craft. Not to be indulgent [laughing].

When you’re offered roles, how do you choose what you want do and what you don’t want to do?

Josh Lucas: I guess a lot of it is really trying to look at, ok the source material; obviously is the most important thing. But from there, then you have to go through and say is this movie real? Is it really financed in a way that it’s going to happen? Like I say, even a Tom Cruise movie just fell apart with Guillermo Del Toro. So, you have to find out – is this really happening? Cause if I’m gonna put my soul into it, you have to make sure it can be funded. And then is it happening correctly in that sense, so it’s really going through and breaking it all down. But the main thing is does this material work? If it works on paper then are the people involved capable of making this the way it works on paper hopefully live even better than when it’s on screen. So, it’s a really complex set of equations that I’ve made terrible mistakes [laughing] because I’ve been dead wrong a number of times.

And luckily on this one as fraught and difficult as this whole production really was in every way, just without money and with the weather, and all the different things that was going through, turned out to be something I think is truly an original unique film.

Day by day, how did you get yourself into this kind of… melancholy for the shoot?

Josh Lucas: This one, because it was so fast, it was like, look I knew I only had to be in it for about 2 weeks and so had it been much longer, I would have had to think about it differently. But because it was 2 weeks, I was like “Ok, you just need to live inside of 2 weeks of horrific misery.” And then trying to make it so that it had nuances, where like I said, sometimes it’s anger, sometimes it’s self-destruction, sometimes it’s madness, sometimes it’s numb, sometimes it’s cold, like all the different pieces of it, so it’s everyday trying to nuance it that way which becomes the joy of it. So it’s not just being miserable inside.

I guess if it’s basketball, you have to keep scoring in all sorts of different ways, because if you score the same way over and over they’re gonna stop you and it’s the same way when you’re being creative.

After filming this, did you go on vacation and just get it out of your head?

Josh Lucas: I definitely did, actually I drove there from New York and I drove back very slowly in order to just kinda get it out. It was like painful in a way. In a good way. It made me wanna do exactly what I ended up luckily being able to do which is to go do something completely fun.

I would have just gotten loaded.

Josh Lucas: [laughing] I did that as well.

Your Broadway experience how was that?

Josh Lucas: It’s like the ultimate dream to be on Broadway, there you are with Jessica Lange. It was like a big celebration of a dream, and yet because of it I was intensely nervous to say the least. And sadly, I got horribly sick the night before we went in front of an audience of 1,500 people, so I did it that first 3 days with a temperature of a 103. And I was scared that they were gonna have to go on with an understudy, and I was like, I just can’t take that risk.  So I wasn’t going to tell everyone how sick I was and I was profusely sweating on stage both from nerves and under a fever. It was quite a mind fuck to say the least. [laughing] There you are doing Tennessee Williams on Broadway with a temperature of 104 and you’re like terrified and great!

You see yourself doing it again?

Josh Lucas: Love to, I really would. I just for some reason… I did something a couple years ago that David Schwimmer directed called Fault Lines, which was Off-Broadway, which I really, really liked as well. The nuamnce1 of going back and forth, it was just, it’s cool.

And finally, what’s your advice to actors?

Josh Lucas: I’d say the same thing my father said to me; if you’re gonna do it, do it the way that someone approaches being a doctor, or a lawyer, with that level of dedication, that level of commitment, that level of what it takes to focus on daily, disciplined basis. I think it’s easy for actors because it’s such an esoteric business, to not be lazy about it but not approach it with that level of… if you’re a doctor, you have to study human physiology or anatomy in the deepest most disciplined way, and I think really this business is the same thing. It’s such a tough business, that if you don’t have that love for it, that you’re willing to do it.

I think it’s also about falling in love with it so deeply that you’re willing to go do community theater in the middle of nowhere because that’s the reality of what the career might be. If you love it so much, if you’re approaching it to be famous or to be a movie star, it’s probably not gonna be a very good experience, even if it happens for you, because it’s such a difficult industry, and rightfully so it’s competitive and it’s hard.

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